SPOTLIGHTED PODCAST ALERT (YOUR ARTICLE BEGINS A FEW INCHES DOWN)...
So, no. No matter which way you slice, dice, or OsCut the closing angle of the 2021 New Japan Cup tournament, the only real analysis necessary is as follows: Bad idea.
In case you missed it, after Will Ospreay won the 2021 New Japan Cup by pinning Shingo Takagi, Ospreay gave the traditional post-match interview in the ring, spoke about the win, and then illustrated how significant it would be for him to wrestle Kota Ibushi for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. Ospreay talked about needing the championship, that it was the most important thing in the world to him, and that he’d do anything to get it. Then, out of nowhere, Ospreay hit his girlfriend, Bea Priestley, with the OsCutter and rolled out of the ring as officials checked on her. Yep, a domestic violence angle to close a wrestling show in 2021.
Save the arguments, because I get it. Domestic violence? Zack, you’re nuts. Priestley was in on it, and she agreed to everything. Violence like this happens in movies and on television all the time. Basically, get over it and it’s all just fine, right?
Wrong. I can admit, fair points, but there are issues here and it starts with simply reading the room. Can we do that next time, New Japan?
The world has moved past this kind of thing being tolerable. #MeToo in the broader culture and #SpeakOut in wrestling culture thankfully created a new environment. Those movements gave women voices when they ordinarily wouldn’t have had one. Their stories not forgotten but told loudly.
Not in New Japan, though. The story here is that Ospreay only loves and needs the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship. In this instance, he showed that by breaking up with his girlfriend and physically assaulting; he wanted to make sure she and the watching world got the point. What’s the goal from a booking perspective? Why, heat on the heel, of course.
Here’s the thing, though. Nobody hates the character of Will Ospreay more because of what he did to Priestley. That’s a problem. They should. Everyone should. The guy wrecked his girlfriend with a viciously physical move because he was done with her and wanted something else. Instead, the immediate reaction on social media was to debate the merits of what happened.
See, all the debating meant that the coveted nuclear heat that was to be generated within this fell squarely on the shoulders of New Japan Pro Wrestling as a company for being crusty, old, and too stubborn to get with the times. Not Will Ospreay. What was left over was the story of a man physically harming a woman without a place to go.
We know what happens to Ospreay. He’s main-eventing the next major New Japan event and wrestling for the world championship. Uh-huh. He’ll be trotted out in front of the world as if he did nothing to wrestle Kota Ibushi – with Priestly, the woman he assaulted, in his rearview mirror.
Priestley? She’s silenced. She’s not getting a match with Ospreay any time soon to fight for revenge. At this point, Kota Ibushi doesn’t appear to be fighting Ospreay on her behalf either. The endgame here is that she and this story are forgotten. She was a blip on the radar of history and used to get her male counterpart over.
So, at worst, New Japan, you’re willingly telling a story in which an abuser of women is looked past and protected by his company because of who he is. That’s not the right side of history to be on. The best-case scenario is you look silly and out of touch.
Culturally, this angle belongs in a time capsule that reads “1998 wrestling.” Re-watching material like that from back then is cringe-worthy and embarrassing through today’s lens. As I type this, a few poor interns at NBC are purging the WWE content migrating to Peacock because the rules are different now. That’s a great thing for the pro wrestling business and a long time coming, too.
Oh, Zack. It’s just a wrestling show. Yeah, it is and the goal of a pro wrestling show is to stage reality. Today’s reality isn’t the place for Will Ospreay physically harming his girlfriend, Bea Priestley. New Japan should know better.
NOW CHECK OUT HEYDORN’S PREVIOUS TAKE: HEYDORN’S TAKE: Don’t hold me to this – WWE Fastlane 2021